Talk:University of Al Quaraouiyine

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Here we go again[edit]

Gun Powder Ma, your long-standing attempt at denigrating any source that goes against your view that a Muslim institution cannot be called a university is not based on any Wikipedia policy. There are several sources that say that this university was established in 859, among them EB which says The Qarawīyīn Mosque is the centre of a university that was founded in ad 859. That they do not convince you of that fact is immaterial, what matters is that reliable, verifiable sources give that as the founding year of the university. I get that you want to claim that the university is a Christian concept and that Muslims had no such thing, but the sources disagree with you, and here that is what counts. nableezy - 14:28, 3 January 2012 (UTC)

See also #university where we went over this very issue. There are a number of sources that say that the University of al-Karaouine was founded in 859, and call it a university. Also noted above is the fact that the European universities such as Oxford were little more than a few clerics who took students, generally for quite a bit of money. This effort to claim any Muslim university as being something other than that is very tiresome. nableezy - 14:32, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
I concur. You are reverting reliable sources, because of an ideological, and perhaps ethnocentric disagreement with what several good sources affirm. Don't repeat this.Nishidani (talk) 15:27, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
I also concur. I would also like to point out that similar discussions are happening at Talk:List of oldest universities in continuous operation and Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view/Noticeboard#The_List_of_oldest_universities_in_continuous_operation_.28again.29 so it can kinda get confusing how much dispute resolution has been achieved.VR talk 22:19, 3 January 2012 (UTC)

There is now as then not a single source cited which does the following:

  1. calls madrasahs as "universities" and
  2. is scholarly, preferably specialist scholarship on the university and its history and
  3. makes a comprehensive, argumentative case that (Muslim) madrasahs were actually (Christian) universities.

Madrasahs and universities are separate institutions. This is WP consensus, evidenced by the fact that both have separate articles. Calling a madrasah a university just because both have in common being centres of higher education is just as wrong as calling a mosque a church just because both have in common being places of worship. All you have done is taking some sources which just use the word "university" as a loose generic term, but none really argues for Muslim madrasahs being Christian universities (unsurprisingly so, because this would be like arguing that mosques are churches). For a start, please quote from the Guiness Book of Records verbatim and explain why we should treat it here as a reliable and relevant source. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 12:55, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

and again[edit]

Is outlasting the opposition the goal here? Is there a reason why you continue to push this POV in against the sources? I am, once again, reverting your changes. A large number of sources say that this place was founded as a university. The sources continue to trump your personal views on this topic. nableezy - 20:49, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

We are following here the definition as established and accepted in university. The article is the basis of our definition of what a university is. There have been month long talks at Talk:List of oldest universities which established the consensus that madrasaa are madrasas and universities are universities and each has a separate history and separate articles. Please don't try to edit-war this WP consensus. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:59, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
No, we are following what reliable sources say. You dont get to claim exclusivity to the term as though your view trumps the several reliable sources cited. And claiming that a faithful representation of those sources is OR, based on the OR that only Christian universities are real universities, is truly asinine. You dont want an edit-war? Then dont try to force in your views in to the article. They were rejected before, and you still dont have consensus for it. nableezy - 21:06, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
Plain and simple, are you aware of the consensus established several months ago or aren't you? If not, please read the extensive discussions there first because engaging in an edit war. The issuew why these sources are for the most part not reliable or irrelevant or need particular understanding have been addresses there extensively. You cannot term here institutions (madrasas) as "universities" which are not explicitly not defined as such in the main articles, that is university and List of oldest universities. That the madrasa of Al-Karaouine was a university is a small minority view at best. As such is has been stated in various articles including this, this should be more than enough to give it. In no way are we redesigning here a Muslim mosque school as a Christian medieval university. This would be a massive violation of WP:POV and other core policies. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:17, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
Plain and simple, are you aware that several eminently reliable sources say that this university was founded in 859? Because your bogus assertions continue to directly conflict those reliable sources. You know, the things that we base our article on. nableezy - 21:25, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
This has been explained many times in the discussions on the talk pages of university and List of oldest universities which you have missed. The term "university" is used in these sources of yours, which are by the way only from non-experts, but consistently as a synonym of "institution of higher learning". Such institutions can be found in many cultures at an early point of time (Greece, India, China, Persia), long before Islam. None of these low quality sources of yours really make a case why the madrasa should be a Christian university in the true, strict and historical sense. But a lot of historians of the university, in contrast, explain in great detail why the university was a European creation (1, 2) and why madrasas cannot be considered universities (1). Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:07, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
Argument by repetition is not what counts as an honest effort on Wikipedia. I was unaware this is not a reliable source. Or this. Or this. Or this. These are not low quality sources, and you cant just dismiss them because you disagree with them. And you cant edit war to force in a favored version of an article. nableezy - 22:24, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
None of these sources are a) experts on the history of the university and b) none of these sources actually present an argument why a madrasa should be defined as a university. All they do is just calling the madrasa a university, for the simple reason that today any institution of higher leanrnign is called a university. But at the time of its founding Al-Karaouine was a madrasa and remained so until it became a university in 1947.
Gunpowder Ma, have you actually read the articles you seem to like referring to? Pardon my doubt, but in Talk:List of medieval universities#Suggested page move it seems you were quite confused. Anybody who has actually read Verger or Ruegg - or any article on Medieval universities in Europe, for that matter - wouldn't make such elementary errors. You didn't reply to me then, could I ask you to please clarify now on where you obtained this view you seem to be espousing with such certainty? Walrasiad (talk) 02:18, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
I have read all the articles I am citing and I have created most of the historical lists of universities here. Does not make me something special, of course, but should serve my point that I have always made the effort to read my scholarly sources carefully and present them faithfully. Please see below for a selection of them. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 12:00, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

The is unreal. An entire section that has nearly nothing to do with this article is repeatedly added without anything resembling a consensus. A balanced sentence that says that X considers it the first university and Y does not is removed. A source that says that this was founded as a university in 859 is distorted by now using it say no it was only a "madrasa" (a word that you people do not seem to understand). The claim the university was founded in 1947 is completely, unapologetically, bullshit. Athenean, please explain why you are inserting bullshit into an encyclopedia article. nableezy - 15:51, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

University was a medieval Christian institution[edit]

This is the historically and conceptually correct and accepted scholarly standard view: The madrasa was the institution of higher learning of the medieval Muslim world. The university was the institution of higher learning of the medieval Christian world. Both were the highest institutions of education in their respective cultural and religious realms, but they were distinct in terms of origin, conception, organization and subjects; the madrasa was not the university just as the university was not the madrasa. It was only in recent times, in the course of modernization, that the Muslim world, as everywhere else, adopted the university from the Western world as its highest centre of learning (with the madrasa relegated to purely theological and religious-judicial matters). But the fact that today many madrasas have become universities does not justify calling them university at the time of their founding or, indeed, the longest time of their existence.

Let us cite some leading international scholars of the history of the university on the uniqueness of the medieval Christian university:

Walter Ruegg in his editorial outline on the history of the university again. Note this is from the multi-volume publication of the European University Association with contributions by most international experts. In other words, all these experts agree to this interpretation because it is the editorial line of the book they have contributed to:

The university is a European institution; indeed, it is the European institution par excellence. There are various reasons for this assertion. As a community of teachers and taught, accorded certain rights, such as administrative autonomy and the determination and realization of curricula (courses of study) and of the objectives of research as well as the award of publicly recognized degrees, it is a creation of medieval Europe, which was the Europe of papal Christianity...

No other European institution has spread over the entire world in the way in which the traditional form of the European university has done. The degrees awarded by European universities – the bachelor's degree, the licentiate, the master's degree, and the doctorate – have been adopted in the most diverse societies throughout the world. The four medieval faculties of artes – variously called philosophy, letters, arts, arts and sciences, and humanities –, law, medicine, and theology have survived and have been supplemented by numerous disciplines, particularly the social sciences and technological studies, but they remain none the less at the heart of universities throughout the world.

Even the name of the universitas, which in the Middle Ages was applied to corporate bodies of the most diverse sorts and was accordingly applied to the corporate organization of teachers and students, has in the course of centuries been given a more particular focus: the university, as a universitas litterarum, has since the eighteenth century been the intellectual institution which cultivates and transmits the entire corpus of methodically studied intellectual disciplines. (Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. I: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. XIX–XX)

And now Jacques Verger, one of the contributors and internationally leading experts, in his introduction:

No one today would dispute the fact that universities, in the sense in which the term is now generally understood, were a creation of the Middle Ages, appearing for the first time between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It is no doubt true that other civilizations, prior to, or wholly alien to, the medieval West, such as the Roman Empire, Byzantium, Islam, or China, were familiar with forms of higher education which a number of historians, for the sake of convenience, have sometimes describes as universities.Yet a closer look makes it plain that the institutional reality was altogether different and, no matter what has been said on the subject, there is no real link such as would justify us in associating them with medieval universities in the West. Until there is definite proof to the contrary, these latter must be regarded as the sole source of the model which gradually spread through the whole of Europe and then to the whole world. We are therefore concerned with what is indisputably an original institution, which can only be defined in terms of a historical analysis of its emrgence and its mode of operation in concrete circumstances. (Verger, Jacques: "Patterns", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. I: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-521-54113-8, pp. 35–76 (35))

George Makdisi, a third internationally renowned scholar concludes his study of the differences between the university and the madrasa with a stress on the uniqueness of the Christian university:

In studying an institution which is foreign and remote in point of time, as is the case of the medieval madrasa, one runs the double risk of attributing to it characteristics borrowed from one's own institutions and one's own times. Thus gratuitous transfers may be made from one culture to the other, and the time factor may be ignored or dismissed as being without significance. One cannot therefore be too careful in attempting a comparative study of these two institutions: the madrasa and the university. But in spite of the pitfalls inherent in such a study, albeit sketchy, the results which may be obtained are well worth the risks involved. In any case, one cannot avoid making comparisons when certain unwarranted statements have already been made and seem to be currently accepted without question. The most unwarranted of these statements is the one which makes of the "madrasa" a "university". (Makdisi, George: "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages", Studia Islamica, No. 32 (1970), pp. 255–264 (255f.))

Thus the university, as a form of social organization, was peculiar to medieval Europe. Later, it was exported to all parts of the world, including the Muslim East; and it has remained with us down to the present day. But back in the Middle Ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere. (Makdisi, George: "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages", Studia Islamica, No. 32 (1970), pp. 255–264 (264))

And finally, a fourth view from a monograph on the history of the university:

In many respects, if there is any institution that Europe can most justifiably claim as one of its inventions, it is the university. As proof thereof and without wishing here to recount the whole history of the birth of universities, it will suffice to describe briefly how the invention of universities took the form of a polycentric process of specifically European origin. (Sanz, Nuria; Bergan, Sjur (eds.): The Heritage of European Universities, Council of Europe, 2002, ISBN 978-92-871-4960-2, p. 119)

All of these are top notch sources by leading international scholars working on the history of the university. Nableezy's 'sources', by contrast, are largely a googled potpourri of misinterpreted, miscited and miscontrued phrases by random non-expert authors taken out of context (or, rather, without the necessary context). The bottom line is: Al-Karaouine cannot have been the first university, because it was no university at all; it was founded and run as a madrasa. Universities only existed in the West for a long time in history. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 12:00, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

I am not sure you are taking away what should be taken from these sources. (That the title of the collection is called History of the University in Europe, suggests a more limited qualifer than you are allowing.) For instance, you seem to completely ignore the subsequent paragraph in Ruegg:

It seems more plausible to derive the organizational pattern of the Medieval university from the Islamic schools of learning (the importance of the latter for scholarly activity in philosophy, natural science and medicine is evident in chapters 10 and 11.) British Islamic scholars give an affirmative answer to the question: "Did the Arabs invent the university". They maintain that Islamic institutions of learning were the source of the idea of organizing foreign students into nations and that they were also the source of the ideas of universal validity of the qualification for teaching conferred by the venia docendia, of the academic robe, and the title of the baccalarius. Of course, the invocation of such affinities often confuses propter hoc with the post hoc; it does not does not demonstrate whether and how the later forms emerged from the earlier ones. The term baccalarius could not be an Islamic importation from the twelfth century because it was already in use in the ninth century as the Latin designation of a preparatory or auxiliary status in a variety of social careers. The American Islamicist Makdisi, who is to be taken more seriously, has discovered eighteen substantial affinities between the Islamic and occidental patterns of the organization of learning and their transimissiomn through institutional arrangements more or less like universities. He has concluded however that "the university is a twelfth century product of the Christian West of the twelfth century, not only in its organization, but also in the privileges and protection it received from the Pope and King." But the situation is different with regard to the colleges, which he does derive from the Islamic model. (Ruegg, p.8)

which should have alerted you to the fact that it is not as cut-and-dried as you seem to want to make it.

Similarly, it seems to me puzzling that you could read Verger, and then come up with the whopper that "Not every medieval university was a studium generale, only the largest and most prestigious were." (as you did here). That entire article was about Studia generale! Forgive me if I doubt you actually read it beyond that one paragraph.

So I am curious as to where you are obtaining your ideas. There doesn't seem to me to be anything more in the statements you have cited than to try to say that Studia generale did not derive from Islamic models - and even then, not particularly strong statements, just about some minor organizational features - the central board, the chancellor, the papal charter - that are obviously not derived. But it doesn't mean that Islamic models cannot be characterized as universities. After all, on the basis of the features they do share - organization of colleges, degrees, robes, higher curricula, universal catchment, and most importantly of all, the jus ubique docendi, which many scholars (including myself) consider the distinctive feature of Studia generale (relative to other studia).

Now, I am not going to come out and say that necessarily makes them universities (although if we apply that criteria, then they certainly are). But at the very least, it implies flexibility, a flexibility which I and many others are willing to grant and have proposed workable compromises before. But you seem to be quite more absolutist, without being clear to me on what basis you are grounding your views which such adamant confidence. Certainly does not seem to be based on Ruegg nor Verger - at least not a careful reading of them. So I am still wondering what sources you have used? Walrasiad (talk) 13:39, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

If you are asking me to read Rüegg's and Vergeer's clear verdict aloud for you, what can I do for you? First, the question of the studium generale is completely unrelated here, so please bring it up elsewhere. Second, I am fully aware of the passage by Rüegg (p. 8). As you see he picks up this assertion of "British Islamic scholars" and then dismisses it. His view expounded on XIX–XX (above) is crystal clear and unambigous. As for that of these other scholars, why don't you cite them? Actually, they have already been included in some articles as a minority view, but here they are stated as the majority view by making this madrasa a university—which is plainly wrong. You want the madrasa to be a university? You go to the main article university and redefine the subject and come back. Otherwise, this remains a firm minority view which should be here presented as such. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:40, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
I am entirely unconvinced by his arguments. Which have been made repeatedly before. And as far as I am aware the current article includes all the relevant info from both sides of the argument as a compromise. Unless GPM can bring anything new and convincing to the discussion I oppose any removal of reliably sourced info. And any argument that starts with 'I dont rate Guinness or UNESCO as a source' is not going to go far. Take that to RSN. Its already been to NPOV and that pretty much agreed with the current compromise. Only in death does duty end (talk) 14:09, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Are you sockpuppet or just a sockpuppet? You take this to RSN because you cannot seriously claim the Guinness Books of Records to be a scholarly source on qualitative matters. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:40, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Disregarding your personal attacks, if *you* wish to declare a source as unreliable against consensus (see the previous NPOV discussion), *you* can try to take it to RSN and get them to agree. The Guinness Book of Records is certainly an excellent source on what the Guinness Book of Records claims is a record-holder. As the situation stands, reliable sources claim it is the oldest university. Reliable sources claim otherwise. This is currently reflected in the text of the article. Unless you have a new argument or evidence to present otherwise, using the same arguments as you did last time will not change anything. If the crux of the argument is 'The source is unreliable'. Go prove it. Only in death does duty end (talk) 14:49, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
As it stands, much more reliable sources say that there were no universities outside Europe. Do you see the contradiction? Verger even explains why some of the extra-European institutions are called "universities" - only for the sake of convenience (because it is the general term today). Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:54, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
That is covered in brief by the third paragraph in the lede, there is also no reason not to expand on that in the 'medieval university' section explaning why its not considered a university *at that time in history* due to the differences between western and islamic higher centers of learning. What is not going to fly is just removing the well-sourced claims to it being the oldest university and replacing it with text saying it wasnt a university without clear consensus to do so. And consensus on this has never been forthcoming. Only in death does duty end (talk) 15:14, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Exactly, removing well-sourced additions won't fly here. Particularly, when it blasts a small minority view to a "first university in the world", despite a whole array of quality sources rubbishing such pompous claims. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 15:44, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Feel free to add them back in. Appropriately and without removing the existing content. Only in death does duty end (talk) 15:56, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Done. Now all sources for all views are - for the time being - (re)added, irrespective of their quality. The old article categorization into "medieval university" and "modern university" was untenable WP:OR as no source cited actually makes such a distinction. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 09:49, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
No, you did exactly the same edit as you had before, just [ adding[ more sourced that either are poor (Taliban: The Unknown Enemy is now a reliable source for the history of the university?). And it also distorts sources that are cited (eg is a university located in Fes, Morocco which was established in 1947 is cited to a book that says School has been in session at Karaouine University since 859, making it the world's oldest continuously operating university.). I am reverting the edit as it both has gained no consensus and because it continues with the POV push that distorts one source for another. nableezy - 13:39, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

@GunPowderMa: You can read it, but do you understand it? Studium generale is highly related - it is the definition of the Medieval university in Europe. One and the same thing. That you evinced confusion on that point raised a red flag, suggesting that perhaps you are not as familiar with the history of universities as you seem to claim, and raising doubt that you actually read the articles you are citing.

The matter is quite subtle and ambiguous, but your claims show little restraint or caution. Ruegg, like any other scholar, has an opinion - an opinion far more careful than the claims you ascribe to him. He has merely suggested that the Studium generale in Europe was not an imported institution, although with codicils allowing that certain parts may have been. There are other scholars with other opinions, which he recognizes and you ignore. It implies nothing about how al-Qaraouine or Islamic institutions ought to be characterized, which you seem to trying to run away with. Not to say your opinion is necessarily incorrect - a case can be made - but it is not a "settled" issue, not made by the cited sources, and definitely not as absolute as you are trying to present it.

It seems to me your understanding of this matter rests primarily on opinions you have formed in advance, not actually derived from sources, but plucking loose phrases out of context from articles you haven't read. Walrasiad (talk) 16:28, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

Walrasiad, yes the matter concerning the studium generale is subtle and ambiguous as you rightly put it. The term studium generale itself is less old than the universitas which originally denoted only the guild. It was only in the course of the 13th century, one to two hundred years after the first universities appeared, that it increasingly came into use for the university. That is what Verger says on p. 35. In other words, the universities already existed as an institution before the studium generale appeared as term and category. But the question of the relationship between the studium generale and the university has nothing to do with the question here of the relationship between the completely unrelated Muslim mosque school and the Christian university. We have the article studium generale for this.
And, on a more philosophical note, with over 200 million books published by humankind (according to Google), obviously no question is definitely "settled". You will find for every conceivable opinion sources. But the philosophical insight that nothing is carved in stone should not keep us from confusing the standard view with some minority views. The sources I cited above express all very clearly and unambigously the standard view. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 18:34, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Opening the article with " the first university in the world" is extreme and clumsy POV-pushing. Not only does it conflict with a large body of literature that does not consider Karaouine the oldest university in the world, it is also ambiguous. "First" how? Oldest? Best? I also don't agree with the removal of GPM's additions of sourced material, therefore I have reverted back to the previous version. Athenean (talk) 15:49, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
You realize that you have distorted several sources, and that you are now citing sources that say the university was founded in 859 to claim that the university was founded in the 1940s? You realize that nearly the entire section Name usage is OR? Can you explain why you feel that WP:CONSENSUS does not apply to you? nableezy - 15:53, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Calm down. Where is the OR in the Name usage section? It is sourced, isn't it? Can you point out specific instances of source distortion? If you do, I will correct them. Athenean (talk) 16:02, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Speaking of sourcing, I see that in trying to claim that al-Karaouine is the "oldest unviersity in the world", the bottom of the barrel has been scraped thoroughly. "Hidden Giants" is a self-published work ( "Engineering Education in the Arab world" does not sound like a history journal. Frommer's Morocco? Give me a break. These are not "some historians", in fact most of the sources used are not historians at all. This smacks of desperation. Athenean (talk) 16:20, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Where is the OR? Let's see. You have a sentence some modern authors and texts refer to it by the anachronistic term "university". that is cited to people calling the place a university. Not a single source says that they are using the term anachronistically. This is based off of a source unrelated to this article saying that a madrasa is not a university, a POV that we apparently must accept as though it were unchallenged fact. The sentences Madrasa and university are, however, historically distinct institutions. The university (from Latin universitas), has been historically the institution of higher learning of Christendom, peculiar to medieval Europe (medieval university), and only in the course of modernization programmes in recent times it was adopted outside of the Western world, including the Islamic world. do not say one word about whether or not this place was even a "madrasa" much less on whether or not it was a university. The you have a book Taliban: The Unknown Enemy that you use to make the claim that this is just a "madrasa". Finally, and this is google's fault but something that needs to be fixed nonetheless, we are using Encyclopedia of African History, Volume 1, page 1025 for saying the university was founded in 1947. It is actually volume 2, and what Shillington actually says is:

Higher education has always been an integral part of Morocco, going back to the ninth century when the Karaouine Mosque was established. The mosque school, known today as Al Qayrawaniyan University, became part of the state university system in 1947.

Note that it does not, as GPM has claimed, say that the university was transformed into a modern institution, pulled from the depths of Arab ignorance into modernity thanks to the wise European tradition of higher learning only in 1947. nableezy - 16:25, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
And where pray tell do you put these sources in the barrel?:
  • Aslam, Ednan, ed. (2009), Islamic Education in Europe, Wiener islamisch-religionspädagogische Studien, 1, Böhlau Verlag Wien, pp. 220–221, ISBN 9783205783107, The Muslim community maintained, favoured, and organized the institutions for higher education that became the new centres for the diffusion of Islamic knowledge. These centres were places where teachers and students of that time would meet and also where all intellectuals would gather and take part in extremely important scientific debates. It is not a coincidence that around the 9th centurey the first university in the world, the Qarawiyyin University in Fez, was established in the Muslim world followed by az-Zaytuna in Tunis and Al-Azhar in Cairo. The university model, that in the West was widespread starting only from the 12th century, had an extraordinary fortune and was spread throughout the Muslim world at least until the colonial period. 
  • Goldstone, Jack (2008), Why Europe?: the rise of the West in world history, 1500-1850, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, p. 140, ISBN 9780072848014, Islamic scientists and scholars developed the first universities as centers for scholarship in North Africa and Egypt; the universities of Al-Azhar in Cairo, founded in AD 988, and of Al-Karaouine in Fez (Morocco), founded in 859, are the world's oldest ongoing universities 
nableezy - 16:26, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Ok , first, I have removed "anachronistic". As for the Taliban: The unknown enemy, while I agree that the title is unfortunate, the source seems to pass the criteria for WP:RS. The two sources you have presented are much better than the ones I removed, however, I note that they are nonetheless generalist in nature, as opposed to the scholarly sources that focus on the history of the university provided by GPM. It's still a question of source quality. Athenean (talk) 16:36, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Regarding Shillington, no one ever said anything about "Arab ignorance", please don't use straw men like that. But Shillington does clearly refer to it a "mosque school", which surely is not the same thing as a university. Athenean (talk) 16:44, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Wait a second. A "generalist" source that specifically discusses the topic of the article is inferior to a throw-away line in a book on a completely unrelated topic? And can you please provide a source for the claim that the university was founded in 1947? Because Shillington does not say that, not even a little bit. He says it became part of the state university system in 1947. Not that it was not a university prior to that. And no, a mosque school is not surely is not the same thing as a university and, FYI, that is also a "generalist" source. Where exactly is the objection to using that one? nableezy - 16:47, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Also, for the claim that a "madrasa" cannot be a "university" you have the following citation: Encyclopedia of Islam has an entry on "madrasa" but notably lacks one for a Muslim "university". Is that supposed to be a joke? A Wikipedia editor finds it "notable" that an encyclopedia has an entry on one term but not the other? How is that a source? nableezy - 16:54, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

I will wait for GPM to reply on your above points, however I note that Fergusson's book, despite the title, passes the criteria for a reliable source (Da Capo Press is a reliable publisher), and the OR tag is highly unwarranted as the section is well-sourced, even if we leave out the sources you removed. Makdissi backs the claims being in all instances, and every sentence in sourced. Adding an OR tag is surreal. Athenean (talk) 17:04, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
If you really feel Fergusson is unreliable, you can always ask for a second opinion at WP:RSN. Athenean (talk) 17:07, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
OR does not mean that material is unsourced, it means that a user takes material, sourced or otherwise, to make an argument the source does not actually make. Removing the tags are highly improper. And you have not addressed, not once, that other sources say that it was founded as a university and that it is the world's oldest university. Are you arguing that a freelance journalist writing about the Taliban is reliable for the history of this school but a University Professor at the University of Vienna whose field is Islamic education is not? Because that is what is surreal. nableezy - 17:17, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

And there still is not a single source for the claim that the university was established in 1947. Whereas there are several sources that say that it was established in 859. nableezy - 17:18, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

WP:RSN##University of al-Karaouine nableezy - 17:24, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

(ec) Where is an argument being made that the source does not actually make? Sources 23-27 back exactly what is being claimed in the section. What about the sources that say that it is the oldest continuous operating university in the world? That is mentioned not once but twice in the article. I don't see your point. Regarding the 1947 thing, I agree the current sourcing is inadequate, but I expect that GPM will be able to find sources to that effect. I would search myself, but don't currently have the kind of access that is needed to conduct such a search. Athenean (talk) 17:26, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
The argument is being made by synthesizing several unrelated sources. GPM constructed, and reverted to re-include, a section that makes the following arguments: 1. al-Karioune was for most of its history a madrasa, not a university (that isnt sourced, the only reliable source for it being established as a madrasa, and I agree he is a reliable source, is Lulat, who says the modern-day Qarawiyyin University in Fez began its life as a madrasah in 859), then takes books that argue that "madrassas" are not "universities". But no source actually makes the combined argument that this place was not a university. But because of how you structure the section, that argument is made by the text. And even further, it completely disregards, or diminishes, the several sources that explicitly say that it was a university (eg "although this is true, these people say the wrong thing" when no source actually makes that combined argument). nableezy - 17:31, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

And now your pal has completely removed the fact that what he is putting into an encyclopedia article is an unashamed distortion of what Shillington wrote. Marvelous. nableezy - 17:38, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

As for the Encyclopedia of Islam, quite simple: If a Muslim medieval "university" had existed, it would have been covered in the EoI which is one of the most recognized encyclopedias on Islamic history just as all encyclopedias on Christian medieval Europe has an entry "university". This is an argument from silence, EoI cannot describe , cannot be expected to describe an institution which did not exist in Muslim education. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 17:40, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Jesus Christ, can somebody please explain to this person what "original research" means? nableezy - 17:45, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
And maybe get him to actually say where Shillington claims that the university was founded in 1947? Because it isnt in what he dishonestly used in the article. nableezy - 17:45, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
What do you not understand in Shillington? Gun Powder Ma (talk) 23:56, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
What do I not understand from a source that I brought and quoted? You serious? Even your compatriot agrees the sourcing for the wildly imaginative claim that the university was founded in 1947 is "inadequate". Shillington does not say what you attribute to him, namely that this was "founded" as a university in 1947. What Shillington says is that it became part of the state university system in 1947. Those are two very different things, and your edit grossly misrepresents the source. nableezy - 00:01, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
If you object to the use of the word "founded", I have no objection against a somewhat different wording (orgnaized, restructured etc.). The bottom line of the cited passage, however is clear: Shillington makes a distinction between the "mosque school" and the "state university" and he draws the line in 1947. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:52, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
That is simply not true. Shillington says that it was brought into the state university system. He says nothing beyond that, and you are simply making things up. Tell me, if you have actually read Shillington, what does the next sentence say? nableezy - 07:06, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Not sure what happened in 1947, but my hunch (from the experience of al-Azhar) is simply that the government recognized the equivalence of its degrees to those of secular universities. If you want to impose such official edicts and charters recognizing degrees as founding dates, then Paris and Bologna were only founded in 1291 and 1292, Oxford founded only in 1571 (something their Cambridge rivals never tire of pointing out) and Padua in 1872. Walrasiad (talk) 02:12, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

[[Da Capo Press] seems reliable, as another editor already pointed out, so you should take it to the WP:RS board if you disagree. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 17:55, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Are you kidding me? You reject sources as "generalist" when they are specifically about this university and are published by academic presses, but De Capo Press is reliable because it has a throw-away line in a completely unrelated book? You have to be kidding me. So, based on your using that completely unrelated book for an unattributed view, I suppose you have no problem with me citing any of the number of sources that say it is the oldest university and placing that in the article? Stop removing that tag, you dont get to decide these things on your own. nableezy - 18:17, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Oh, and Im still waiting for you to quote the next sentence from Shillington, as you seem so confident about what he says that you surely must actually know what he says, beyond the quotes that I provided here of course. nableezy - 18:24, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Did a revert. Please take Da Capo Press to the RS board then, if you feel unhappy, an involvement of fresh minds would not hurt. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 18:44, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Yes, thats your second revert. Try not to lie in your edit summaries next time. And Im still waiting for you to give me one quote from the source you so blatantly misrepresented in an encyclopedia article. nableezy - 18:51, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Did the following modifications:

  • The claim is that "Al-Karaouine is considered by some historians[1][2][5][6][7][8][9] as the oldest continuously operating university in the world". However, neither are all the cited authors historians not do they all maintain that this is the oldest continuously operating university. Added a couple of specialist sources which should make the standard view to all but an irremediable edit-warrior clear. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 13:20, 30 July 2012 (UTC)
Thats rich. After your third revert, you call somebody else an irremediable edit-warrior. You additionally filled the lead with material wholly unrelated to this article. Your next revert will be your fourth, which will once again demonstrate just how irremediable an edit warrior you are. Oh, and still waiting for you to quote one line that I have not brought to this page from a source you so baldly distorted to push your POV. Just curious if you have even seen anything from a source that you claimed to have understood. nableezy - 15:30, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

University V/s Madrasa[edit]

To establish some foundation for understanding of the terms University and Madrasa, Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a university as ... : an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees; specifically : one made up of an undergraduate division which confers bachelor's degrees and a graduate division which comprises a graduate school and professional schools each of which may confer master's degrees and doctorates. Oxford Dictionary defines a university as ... an educational institution designed for instruction, examination, or both, of students in many branches of advanced learning, conferring degrees in various faculties, and often embodying colleges and similar institutions: while the Cambridge Dictionary defines a Madrasa as ... a school where people go to learn about the religion of Islam while the Macmillan Dictionary defines a Madrasa as a college where students are taught about Islam. I can see that the article mentions nothing apart from religeos studies but I did find a secondary source here and here that show that this University does offer Bachelor Degrees and a source here that says it offers Master's Degrees, undergraduate degrees and even Doctoral Degrees. I assume that all of these courses include the requisite examinations. I also found a reference here[1] which says that the Guiness Book calls this University as the oldest university which I verified here. If the Guiness Book choses to call it a University then technically its a University. Getting down to the debate about European and Middle East versions of University. Lets understand that even Arabic numerals were introduced in europe from the Arab world, although arabic and european numbers look different. So a difference in understanding of what a University is supposed and not supposed to do is as natural as a difference in perceptions about marital practices or about LGBT. Yes, the Wikilinks do point to islamic articles but that's to highlight the differences of opinion. Nowhere in the dictionary deffinitions is it mentioned that only European institutions can be referred to as universities. The courses offered by a University reflect more the expectations of the soceity about scholarship and awareness and are never meant to get hammered down by the archaic deffinitions of scholars -Wikishagnik (talk) 06:46, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

"Nowhere in the dictionary deffinitions is it mentioned that only European institutions can be referred to as universities." You are new to the discussion, right? This is plainly wrong. Please see below for definitions of a madrasas of universities in dictionaries and encyclopedias. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 18:13, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
HEHEHE it is hard to admit that dark ages of Christian Europe borrowed (not to say plagued, and claimed as its own) the achievements of Muslims who gave light to Europe :) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:37, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
Gave light to Europe? By invading it? I am surprised that you have not been banned from Wikipedia for your comment. al-Qarawiyyin is not the "first degree awarding educational institution in the world". It did not grant degrees until the twentieth century. It was simply a madrassa for most of its existence. (talk) 21:14, 26 December 2015 (UTC)


  1. ^ Mushtaq K Lodi (6 July 2011). Islam and the West: The Clash Between Islamism and Secularism. Strategic Book Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-61204-623-5. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 

Definitions of the madrasas and the university in dictionaries and encyclopedias[edit]

A user asserts that dictionaries don't define the medieval university as European institutions only. This is simply not true, in fact this is the standard definition given in dictionaries and encyclopedias, accurately reflecting the main view of scholarship.


Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages

The university came into being in the 12th century. On a general level, it was certainly a manifestation of the great transformations that characterised European society during the centuries following the year 1000. The debate begins when we seek to fix its origin more precisely: was the university an evolution of the 11th- and 12th-c. cathedral schools or, on the contrary, of lay municipal schools (of grammar, notariate, law)? Did it have antecedents in the higher legal schools of late Roman Antiquity? Does it show analogies with the teaching institutions of the Islamic world? In reality, the university was an original creation of the central centuries of the Middle Ages, both from the point of view of its organisation and from the cultural point of view, notwithstanding what it owed, in the latter aspect, to the cathedral schools (especially for philosophy and theology). (Vauchez, André; Dobson, Richard Barrie; Lapidge, Michael (eds.): Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Vol. 1, Routledge, 2000, ISBN 978-1-57958-282-1, p. 1484 (entry "university"))

Encyclopædia Britannica

The modern university evolved from the medieval schools known as studia generalia; they were generally recognized places of study open to students from all parts of Europe. The earliest studia arose out of efforts to educate clerks and monks beyond the level of the cathedral and monastic schools...The earliest Western institution that can be called a university was a famous medical school that arose at Salerno, Italy, in the 9th century and drew students from all over Europe. It remained merely a medical school, however. The first true university was founded at Bologna late in the 11th century. It became a widely respected school of canon and civil law. The first university to arise in northern Europe was the University of Paris, founded between 1150 and 1170. (Encyclopædia Britannica: "University", 2012, retrieved 26 July 2012)

Catholic Encyclopedia

Although the name university is sometimes given to the celebrated schools of Athens and Alexandria, it is generally held that the universities first arose in the Middle Ages. (Pace, Edward: "Universities", The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, Robert Appleton Company, New York, 1912, retrieved 27 July 2012)

Brill's New Pauly

The first universities appeared around 1200. They traced their own origins to ancient roots. Paris, for instance, in the 13th cent. portrayed itself as founded by Charlemagne and hence as the final station of a translatio studii founded in Athens and transmitted via Rome...In reality, the mediaeval universities as institutions enjoyed no form of continuity with the public academies of Late Antiquity...The early universities as institutions were not clearly legally defined, and had no consistent, comprehensive bureaucratic structure. They emerged from collective confraternities at a place of study. Teachers and students would join together in corporate groups (universitas magistrorum et scholarium, as at Paris before 1200, and at Oxford and Montpellier before 1220) or, indeed, students alone (universitas scholarium, as at Bologna before 1200). Sometimes universities resulted from secessions from these first foundations (as at Cambridge from the University of Oxford before 1220, at Padua from the University of Bologna in 1222). Retrospectively at least, however, the foundation and its legal privileges (protection, autonomy, financial basis, universal licence to teach – licentia ubique docendi) had to be confirmed by a universal power, either by the pope or, more rarely, the emperor. Only then did an institution attain the true status of a studium generale. (Brill's New Pauly: "University", Brill, 2012)


It is a good idea to give some definitions of the madrasas. This helps to understand that it was (still is) an institution distinct from the university and which is to be treated and analysed on its own terms by historians.

Encyclopaedia of Islam

Madrasa, in modern usage, the name of an institution of learning where the Islamic sciences are taught, i.e. a college for higher studies, as opposed to an elementary school of traditional type (kuttab); in mediaeval usage, essentially a college of law in which the other Islamic sciences, including literary and philosophical ones, were ancillary subjects only. (Pedersen, J.; Rahman, Munibur; Hillenbrand, R.: "Madrasa", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition, Brill, 2010)

Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia

A madrasa is a college of Islamic law. The madrasa was an educational institution in which Islamic law (fiqh) was taught according to one or more Sunni rites: Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanafi, or Hanbali. It was supported by an endowment or charitable trust (waqf) that provided for at least one chair for one professor of law, income for other faculty or staff, scholarships for students, and funds for the maintenance of the building. Madrasas contained lodgings for the professor and some of his students. Subjects other than law were frequently taught in madrasas, and even Sufi seances were held in them, but there could be no madrasa without law as technically the major subject. (Meri, Josef W. (ed.): Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, A–K, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-96691-7, p. 457 (entry "madrasa"))

Gun Powder Ma (talk) 18:13, 29 July 2012 (UTC)


Completely agree with points stated above but what I have to say does not contradict what you have mentioned. It simply adds on to it. yes, modern universities (and that's what is explained above, not Universities in general) might have evolved in Europe and yes, it is the most widely accepted form of university in the world, but,
  • Firstly, this institute does offer courses beyond religeous studies such as BA and B.Tech.
  • Secondly, your argument would be a very restrictive study of the history of any subject. This would mean that subjects such as Maths, Philosophy as sports are all European inventions because the modern usage of these was developed in Europe. Just like these subjects the concept of University and education has evolved over time. The European version of a University might be the most accepted version of it but that does not mean that the other versions never existed.
  • Again, the Guiness book of World Records, does call it the world's oldest university
I hope this clarrifies my point because I agree that modern Universities are a European invention but there have been other Universities before, that might have taken some time to accept the European standards, and that this University is not a Madrasa because it does offer secular courses such as BA and -Wikishagnik (talk) 22:28, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Wikishagnik, are you aware of the existence of the article ancient institutions of higher learning? This is the place where all ancient "universities" in the general sense of institutions of higher learning are dealt with. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:25, 31 July 2012 (UTC)

Back to the point[edit]

This article is not university. This article is about the University of al-Karaouine. Pushing into the lead of this article material that has absoluetely nothing to do with this article, such as the 13+kB you just pushed into the lead, violates several core policies, among them WP:NPOV (repeatedly stating as fact, in Wikipedia's voice, a contested POV), and WP:OR (doing such things as saying that although X is the "standard view", all these other people say the wrong thing). Kindly take your pride in Europe to a place where it is relevant. nableezy - 14:28, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

You were the one who has consistently demanded that "all significant viewpoints" should be presented. This has been now done. All material is directly related to the three claims of al-Karaouine being the "1. first 2. continuously operated 3. university". I agree though that the whole paragraph should be moved away from the lead into the main text. This, however, should not be done in a way where the lead makes claims which are further below thoroughly exposed as mere minority views. Any ideas how this could be done objectively? I also marked several sources of yours as quite possibly unreliable. Could you care to address this? Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:20, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
I've gone for a much shorter summary, that hopefully covers both positions reasonably fairly without going into excessive detail. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:21, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
I don't think we need to cut back contents on this. Without a doubt, Al-Karaouine is logically the most adequate place to discuss whether medieval Al-Karaouine is to be considered a university or madrasa, isn't it? However, I cut back on quotes and we need to think about moving material from the lead to the main text, because the WP:lead only should summarize contents which are discussed below. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 10:37, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
I do, and most of your sources say nothing about al-Karaouine. Again, your edits were challenged, stop edit-warring them back in. nableezy - 14:07, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
And adding emphasis to quotes that the sources do not include is yet another example of misrepresentation of a source. Oh, and still waiting for you to provide a single quote from Shillington, as you so obviously have not read what he wrote yet are here claiming to understand him. nableezy - 14:09, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Nableezy, care to expand why you tag some sources with "not in citation given" which have been cited faithfully? Did a revert because — Preceding unsigned comment added by User:Gun Powder Ma (talkcontribs) 16:00, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Because they have not been cited faithfully, they have been distorted to push a rather obvious agenda, an agenda that the source does not support. I assume the rest of the last sentence you neglected to finish would have gone because edit-warring is my modus operandi. Yes, I already knew that repeated reverting is your chosen method for pushing a POV. nableezy - 16:32, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
I think there is some middle ground between these two positions which should hopefully be satisfactory to both sides. I will make an edit and revert immediately later on. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 14:28, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Where do you see the middle ground, Eraserhead1? :-) Gun Powder Ma (talk) 16:07, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Nableezy, care to expand why you tag some sources with "not in citation given" which have been cited faithfully? Gun Powder Ma (talk) 16:00, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Because you are, once again, distorting the cited source. The Dictionary of Islamic Architecture does not say that classes were first held in a "mosque school" or a "madrasa", it says that the mosque was founded in 859. Next, you still have not provided a reliable source for the claim that there is a "standard view" that such places as al-Karaouine and al-Azhar were not founded as universities. Finally, you continue to add your own emphasis to quotes from sources where they do not contain such an emphasis. That is, to be blunt, lying about what a source says. Stop doing that. And, once again, you do not have consensus for your changes. Stop trying to edit-war them into an article. nableezy - 16:17, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── There is middle ground - but the pub takes the prize tonight ;). -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:56, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

This is just awesome. Now an editor canvassed by GPM has decided that he is entitled to revert without discussion. This editor, when he was an admin, had more edit-warring blocks than anyone that I am aware of. How ironic. When exactly did edit-warring become a substitute for consensus? nableezy - 23:14, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
And in addition, this former admin has reinserted quotes that, by emphasizing words that the sources do not, lie about what the source says. I eagerly await an explanation for that, as well as what exactly most of that noise has to do with the topic of this article. nableezy - 23:16, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
And just to show why people shouldn't be making blind reverts, this former admin re-added a {{unreliable source}} tag to a line that contains no source at all, replacing the {{cn}} tag that actually applies. He also removed a {{failed verification}} tag for a source that does not contain what is claimed, and inserted a contested POV as though it were unchallenged fact. Thank you, WMC. That was fantastic. And done just because you like it more. nableezy - 23:19, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

BLP violations and other charming edits[edit]

Athenean, where exactly is the source calling Yahya Pallavicini a Muslim activist? Where exactly is the source for your favored position being the "standard view"? BLP violations go well beyond what I have observed to be the generally low quality of your edits, kindly remove it. And if you want to remove a citation request, add a citation. It really is not that difficult of a concept. nableezy - 18:59, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

And as far as the edit-summary, how about Professor of education Nick Foskett? That good enough to challenge the idea that your view is the "standard view"? nableezy - 19:00, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

And asking that people provide sources for their assertions is not "wikilaweyering" (and I thought you were telling others to be civil, funny how that works out). nableezy - 19:07, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

The "generally low quality" my edits? You have a real civility problem, you know that? One more such comment and I will take you to ANI, promise. That's quite enough already. Now, regarding the "standard view", given the number and the content of historians of the university provided above, it is pretty clear that this represents a consensus among the scholarly literature As for Yahya Pallavicini, I agree with this assessment [1], that "activist" is a fair description. I don't think it is a BLP violation, activist is not negative term. Nevertheless, if a consensus evolves at the BLPN that it is a BLP vio, I will remove it. Athenean (talk) 19:23, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Feel free, in that case I can raise your repeated attacks against me as being disingenuous, dishonest, shrill, wikilawyering, …. If you would like me to treat you with respect, do the same with me. I am more than willing to start over with you, but not so long as you continue making such comments about me and demanding that I not return the favor.

Back to the point. Is there or is there not a reliable source describing Yahya Pallavicini as an "activist". Is there a reason why his view should suffer from such well-poisoning? Should any European cited have their view prepended by "according to the white European ..."? You cannot add such material about a living person without a reliable source. If you do not remove it I will. An editor has, in good faith, challenged your addition as a BLP violation. Do you plan on removing it, or will this have to go another route?

Regarding the assertion that there is a standard view on the topic, no, you cannot say that given the number and the content of historians of the university provided above, it is pretty clear that this represents a consensus among the scholarly literature. That is a classic case of original research by WP:SYNTH. A reliable source that directly supports the material you placed in the article is required, and requesting that citation is not wikilawyering. Either provide the citation, or remove the phrase. nableezy - 19:41, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

If you feel strongly that it is a BLP violation, feel free to ask a second opinion at BLPN. I will abide by whatever is decided there. However, I insist on the "standard view", that is clear from surveying the literature. If there existed a historian of the university that thought the medieval European university was not the direct antecedent of the modern university, it would be different matter. There is no requirement that everything be sourced verbatim, and demanding that every single item be sourced verbatim is a form of wikilawyering. Sorry if that sounds offensive, but that's just how it is. It is a form of gaming the system whereby the spirit of the rule on sourcing is violated in favor of the letter. Athenean (talk) 20:03, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
On second though I removed the characterization of Pallavicini, it's probably not really fair. But I reiterate my insistence on the standard view. Athenean (talk) 20:11, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
(ec) I am sorry, but no, Wikipedia policy on this is clear. WP:V: Sources should directly support the material presented in an article and should be appropriate to the claims made. Is there a source that directly supports the claim made in this article about this supposed "standard view". That source does not have to say "standard view", something like "the overwhelming majority of specialists in university history say" whatever. I have not demand[ed] that every single item be sourced verbatim, so kindly take your accusations of wikilawyering and gaming elsewhere. I am trying to be as respectful as I can, but I do not have it in me to tolerate people demanding civility while insulting me. But the material must be directly support[ed] by a reliable source.

As far as the BLP violation, you can take it to BLP/N if you want to, thats up to you. I am however removing it as a straight-forward BLP violation without any source, and will remind others of WP:BLP#Restoring deleted content. nableezy - 20:13, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

(after ec) disregard the last line, and thank you. nableezy - 20:13, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I feel claims if canvassing are unfair - I was also asked to take part by GPM and I had disagreed with GPM before.

I think the standard view point is the only one I'm not sure on. I think on balance that unless it can be explicitly sourced it should be removed. The point is strongly implied from the other text. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 10:41, 2 August 2012 (UTC)

Compromise proposals[edit]

By Eraserhead1[edit]

As promised I have provided a compromise proposal which can be viewed here. In the meantime I have reverted back to a previous uncontroversial edit by me.

  • I have re-named the "Name changes" section to "Status" and made it a full section. I'm not entirely happy with "Status" but "Name changes" was much less accurate.
Good one. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:58, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
  • I have moved the content GPM added to the lead on top of my version on the 1st August to the new Status section, and re-written that content to roughly match the point of view expressed by the lead. I believe GPM was suggesting that, and that meets WP:LEAD by merely summarising that content in the lead and including more detail below.
Good, but still not enough. Per WP:Lead the intro only summarizes things, for more see below. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:58, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
  • I have renamed the Madrasah section to Early History as I'm not convinced that section title adds any significant value to the article, and there is enough doubt about it that I don't think you can use it without explanation which you can't by design with a section title.
I think "madrasa" would be a more adequate title given that four sources call it explicitly a "madrasa" at the time of its founding, see also below. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:58, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
  • I have re-added the failed verification tag, it was added in good faith by an editor of good standing, and therefore the source should either be discussed or discarded.
Alright, I have provided below a platform for discussing this. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:58, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
  • I removed the word 'standard' from the lead as I don't think it offers any value - the implication from the rest of the sentence is obvious and that point would otherwise need direct citation as per WP:RS. We don't call World War 2 a decisive victory.
Fine, see below. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:58, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
  • I didn't restore the minor grammar changes I made to the lead, but I think that can wait, and I'm not 100% sure about all of them.
  • I kept the comment about it being a Madrasah as that is clearly backed up by sources.
  • I kept most of the other source addition/quote additions as they seem to pretty clearly be good content.

Thoughts? -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:42, 2 August 2012 (UTC)

Of note I think the history section should be the first section below the lead, as that is how we normally do things. I'm not going to do that now as it will mess up the diff for this proposal so it will make life a little trickier, but I think that is worthwhile - at that point I'm not bothered whether the status section or the mosque section come first. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:12, 2 August 2012 (UTC)
Given the lack of further discussion reverted to my version. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:53, 3 August 2012 (UTC)

By Gun Powder Ma[edit]

Here we go. Based on Eraserhead1's changes from above to which I mostly agree I would like to like make further proposals in order to achieve finally a stable version.
1. I agree to the removal of Fergusson, James: Taliban: The Unknown Enemy, Da Capo Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-306-82033-5 as an not completely reliable source per the discussion on the RS noticeboard. I remove "Being the oldest madrasa in the world..." as a statement now unsourced (sources to this effect can be included any time later, of course).


2. I agree to shortening the opening wording to "the view expounded by historians of the university, encyclopedias and dictionaries of the Middle Ages", leaving out "standard view". The large difference in quality to sources backing up the university claim which was also acknowledged by most users on the neutrality board discussion is still obvious enough from the following enumeration.


3. I maintain that the sourced statement "The first universities were rather all located in Western Europe" is integral to the status discussion, because it demonstrates that the first universities emerged there and not in Morocco, the Maghreb or the Islamic world where Al-Karaouine is located. However, I agree to remove the mentioning of the universities of Bologna and Paris as an attempt to compromise.


4. I add another source (Belhachmi 2003) which shows that the university was really only founded in the 20th century. I change the title of this sub section accordingly.


5. Request a page number for Civilization: The West and the Rest. Tagged too EB which does not claim Al-Karaouine to be the oldest university.


6. With several sources calling medieval Al-Karaouine explicitly a madrasa at the time of its founding and two dating its transformation into a university as late as the 20th century, not to mention all the other fine sources which make clear that there were no universities in medieval Islam at all, I consider the section name "Madrasa" clearly better founded per WP:RS than the unnecessarily evasive "early history".


7. There is no question that WP:lead requires us to move the entire discussion from the lead into the main text where it belongs. This has also the advantage of greatly reducing the debate in size by avoiding doubled contents. In the lead ideally, only a single sentence summing up the discussion should remain. I merge the introduction into the status section and leave the lead void of any such summary for the moment. Please let us discuss the wording of the summary here first, proposals are welcome.


8. I propose to group together footnotes wherever possible in order to tighten the footnote apparatus. This, however, should be best only done after agreement on a stable version.


9. Finally, I propose to remove the two article templates as unnecessary once we have agreed on a stable version and I hope we can achieve this in the spirit of cooperation pretty soon. Regards Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:58, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

All of the above sounds good to me. Athenean (talk) 21:12, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
Gun, frankly I prefer your previous version. There is no reason to entirely remove the debate from the lead - WP:LEAD merely means it shouldn't just be discussed there. In order to cover both sides of the debate you need a paragraph. The only solid improvement in this version is also mentioning 1965.
If the lead is then too long we can sort it out at GA status.
With the section title I don't really care but it is unwise as you will be forced to defend it if people bring up a couple of sources - if you want to avoid arguing about it in future when someone brings up a source or two then go for something else.
A similar argument applies to the 859 founding date where it would probably be better not to mention the word Madrasah - in contrast the article title probably needs to lose "University of" if most sources don't call it a university for the majority of its existence - though I would also avoid the word Madrasah.
I am also away at the moment so I can't respond to everything until the end of the week. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 07:02, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
I will reply more fully after Nableezy's reply, but you misunderstand me (and WP:Lead). I don't want to keep any summary of the section "status" permanently from the lead, I only removed it temporarily in order to discuss its wording here first and to avoid the previous reverting. As for the length of this summary, it should probably not exceed one or two sentences (not present one full discussion as it did before) which would be also size-wise in line with the other summarizing statements in the lead. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 09:18, 6 August 2012 (UTC)
Gun, the difference between Navleezy's version and your previous version was fairly small. All I intended with my compromise was to round off a couple of corners. I really don't see why we don't take that as the starting point. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 14:08, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
Of note if you think we must only use a single sentence I am happy to accept "al Karaouine's status as a university or madrasah is debated" or similar which is really the best we can do with only a single sentence. I would have thought that that would have neutrality issues. However if you think that having only such a sentence meets WP:NPOV then I am happy to accept that I am mistaken as the point of view that to my mind appears to be treated improperly is your own. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:14, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
Reply (Im not really sure how you want this formatted, I can reply inline if you want, but in that case make them subsections)
  1. done
  2. I agree with Eraserhead1 that the oldest university/madrasa should be discussed in the lead, and the way it is listed now effectively makes the article establish one of those views as uncontested fact (it was a madrasa in 859). There should be mention that certain people do in fact view it has having been a university, and there should be mention of those that dispute that view.
  3. The first universities were rather all located in Western Europe shouldnt be given as an undisputed fact, it should be given as a view, even a majority view, but a contested one.
  4. Yes, you added a source. You however continue to disregard the several sources that say it was a university, and by using that as the section title you make Wikipedia take an editorial position on the dispute. I dont see the problem with Shillington's wording, it allows the section title, ie Wikipedia's voice, to avoid making a contested statement as a fact.
  5. That was added here, youll have to ask Omar-toons for that page number. But EB says The Qarawīyīn Mosque is the centre of a university that was founded in ad 859. So sure, you can remove it from the oldest university.
  6. I honestly dont see why Early history isnt sufficient for a title, it completely avoids the issue. I didnt title the section The oldest university in the world, Im not trying to make Wikipedia adopt that view as though it were an uncontested fact, but you are doing that. That is what is frustrating me, although I admit the tone in this section is better all around than it had been. But until we can agree that views contested by several reliable sources cannot be stated as unequivocal fact, I dont see how we can move forward on any of this.
  7. I disagree, this is a major topic and should be in the lead. It shouldnt overwhelm the lead, and it shouldnt so blatantly take one side when several reliable sources disagree with the line it is taking, but it should be in the lead.
  8. Sure.
  9. Obviously, if there is agreement there is no need for a tag.

nableezy - 05:14, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Unfortunately I have to largely agree. I would like to further comment on the section titles with the point that the current position isn't sustainable. Even if everyone here agrees if anyone else brings up any further sources they will be discussed again potentially at length. Unless there is an Arbcom enforced curfew on changes. Even at that point it would be unlikely as Arbcom very strongly prefers not to rule on content.
I am concerned that if we cannot reach a sensible compromise along the lines of Gun, Nableezy and my previous edits (I will add diffs later) that formal mediation may be required to break the back of this dispute and I also think that unlike last time when I tried to get this mediated that any lack of faith in engaging with that process has to be taken to the arbitration committee for advice on how to continue. This dispute has wasted too much of editors time already. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 14:08, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
OK I've gone and taken what N-HH has said below and re-written the status section to improve the wording, and to lose some of the content we don't really need to discuss in that section. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:00, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
I have to say this was pretty heavy-hand editing on your part, Eraserhead1, considering that most of your changes have not even been discussed before. As you can imagine it is virtually impossible to follow (and thus understand and appreciate) the edit summaries for 30+ single edits. Nonetheless, I tried my best to accept most of your changes, even some complete removal of my material, and I built my version basically on top of yours as asign of good faith. What is now the further course? My personal feeling is if the tone is like I am still unhappy with this and that, then other editors might also say, now you are saying I am unhappy with this and that too. It depends now also a bit on the willingness of all editors to make compromises. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:40, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

POV title tag added[edit]

I've added a POV title tag as given it was only clearly a University in the 20th century the current title seems to be pushing a POV. I think this can probably wait until the other issues are fixed so we don't get confused, but in the meantime I have added a tag to the article. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:42, 8 August 2012 (UTC)

I disagree. It is uncontested that it is a university today. I also disagree with the removal of University from the first sentence for that same reason. nableezy - 20:04, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
I've removed it for now given the disagreement but I disagree with you strongly.
Firstly this institution has been considered, by the majority of sources as a non University for the vast majority of the institutions existence, using the word University of in the title is pushing a POV just as much as excluding the other side of the debate from the lead is, so there are some NPOV concerns.
Secondly if we don't use the term "University of" in the title it makes it much easier for us to omit the word Madrasa in other places in the article without violating NPOV which means we don't have to have an (at least) three sentence explanation of the status in locations where that would be undesirable due to space concerns (such as the infobox).
Thirdly I doubt the current title meets WP:COMMONNAME - you refer to Universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Harvard, Brown, Columbia etc. merely by the name of the place and you don't generally include the terms "University of" before them. The only issue on Wikipedia is that in the majority of such cases there is a more obvious alternative subject which takes precedence (e.g. the place that the University is named after) - that doesn't apply for this article where al-Karaouine is a redirect to this article. It is certainly at least ambiguous as to whether this title meets WP:COMMONNAME. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:45, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
Columbia University, Harvard University, Brown University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge are all the titles of articles and the title used in the articles, not just "Columbia", or "Harvard", or ... . My point is that today this place is a university, that is an uncontested fact. To give an example outside of this topic area: I am a Chicagoan. No matter how many times I hear the words "Willis Tower" I continue to say "Sears Tower" out of habit. For the overwhelming majority of the existence of that building, it has been the Sears Tower. However, today, its name is the Willis Tower, and that is an uncontested fact. So our article on the building uses the name it has today. Using University of al-Karaouine doesn't imply that it has always been a university, it says that it is today a university, a fact that I do not think anybody disputes. It isnt pushing the POV that it was always a university, it is saying that it is a university now. nableezy - 21:31, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
And in every University case (other than Havard) there is another serious claim on the name. That doesn't apply here.
With the Willis Tower, probably it shouldn't have been renamed. The article states that Sears tower is the common name in the lead, and it sounds like the people involved got over excited as you can see from the discussion.
While the current title arguably doesn't imply it was always a University (although I don't think I agree), if we leave out the term Madrasa then it most certainly does imply that it was a University at that time. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 07:11, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
Apologies for butting in (outside eyes might help). I can't see much of a case for removing University from the title or first sentence, given that there's not any real dispute that's what it is now. As for the historical point, following on the above discussion, I agree there was far too much on the wider theoretical debate about "What is a university?" in the lead previously, and possibly even now in the main body. This page is about this institution, not that general issue. Equally, it's not that different from 101 debates that afflict WP naming and categorising - different sources say different things and also mean different things when they use a descriptive or taxonomical term; also we probably should at least note common descriptions, even if they are problematic according to more specialised definitions. Personally, a sentence in the lead that says something like "It is often described as the oldest university in the world [per UNESCO statement in passing, and, yes, the Guinness Book of Records et al - I think this is worth stating, since people will see it elsewhere], although for many academic sources, the term should only be applied historically to a specific form of European institution [and do this without talking about "standard" or "correct" views, which imo is a little too judgmental]" is all that's needed, at least before the main body. Btw I'm not disputing the value of the sources that deny non-European institutions of the period were technically universities, but I can't help noticing that one of those relied on here to say just that is part of a series "directed by the European University Association" ... (see Mandy Rice-Davies) N-HH talk/edits 08:41, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── OK, I concede the point about there being POV issues in general with the title containing "University of" and I've adjusted the tag on the article accordingly.

With regards to there being too much content on the general debate, do you think this version has too much such content in the lead? -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:26, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

Simple answer? Yes. There's three paragraphs there, of which two have nothing to do directly with this institution. It needs a sentence in the lead, surely, and that's it. Everything else should be on the University page, or "Definition of a University" page, if there is such a thing. N-HH talk/edits 00:23, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

Unexplained content removal from Gun Powder Ma[edit]

Lets start at the top. I presume there is a justification for re-adding the 10,000 transliterations, and to changing the founding date back from just a date? And what about removing a source I added for the size of the mosque? Why exactly was that worthy of reversion. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 22:53, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

Seems like this has been resolved. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 14:54, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

Oxford and Cambridge as Religious schools as well[edit]

Apparently according to our article on Issac Newton even in the 17th century the fellows at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge had to be ordained priests.

To my mind that makes them religious schools as well, and I really don't see how they weren't religious schools at that time. I am also rather puzzled as to why this obviously important point in the debate wasn't bought up before.

I think this means we probably need to make further changes to the lead and other text - I don't believe stating that the view that al-Karaouine isn't a University as the majority view is appropriate given there are European Universities that were religious schools as well as late as the time of Isaac Newton, if not significantly later. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:27, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

Is anyone questioning that? All universities were religious institutions down to the mid/late-19th C. and many technically still are. On a side-note, Oxbridge fellows were not required to be priests, they were required to be ordained priests within seven years. Some were, some weren't and had to leave. Religious requirements remained until 1853. Walrasiad (talk) 22:57, 12 August 2012 (UTC)
Isn't that the entire argument for claiming that al-Karaouine isn't a University? If they were both religious I fail to see any difference between one kind of religious school and another. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:56, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
You'll have to ask Gun Powder Ma. To be frank, I don't understand his arguments. But somehow he seems to have absconded with the role of defining what is and what is not a university. So maybe he can enlighten you. Walrasiad (talk) 09:29, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
As long as he accepts the current content of this article, with appropriate balance changes once the sources have been checked more throughly, I don't think it is worth worrying about too much. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:47, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Gun, if you aren't going to leave this article alone you need to reply to this. You can't just ignore relevant points you don't want to discuss if you are actually engaging properly. This is certainly directly relevant to the overall dispute even if it isn't directly relevant to this article. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:08, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

I think the purported distinction is about a bit more than merely the religious aspect; plus it's not really open to us to start saying that this distinction - which is found in reliable and serious sources - can be ignored on that basis or by our own logic. That said, as I noted previously, several of those sources that insist "university" can only apply in those times to European institutions do come from the Council of Europe and the European University Association (ie those at current footnoes 33, 34 & 35). The point is, as noted by most of us, we cannot say we have a definitive answer either way, because no such thing exists. The issue is how that is expressed. N-HH talk/edits 17:22, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
My questioning is because the debate hasn't merely been expressed as a matter of WP:V, which doesn't really explain all the edit warring and other nonsense to back up a certain viewpoint and to remove content reflecting another equally - if not more - reasonable viewpoint.
If there was a clear logical difference that behaviour would be much more understandable than it is where the difference is essentially trivial given the religious nature of Universities. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:40, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Go back to basics here. University implies teaching a range of topics. Which Oxford and Cambridge did from the beginning. al-Qarawiyyin was primarily a madrassa for most of its life. It did not typically teach anything other than Islamic studies. It was a theological school (at best) not a university. (talk) 21:17, 26 December 2015 (UTC)

Stable version[edit]

After a heavy-handed edit by Eraserhead which basically was done without prior discussion, I have done my best to accept his changes wherever I can, in order to arrive at a stable version. After all, the recent changes of the past month or so have greatly improved the article, so this is a positive thing. Still, some issues have now crept in the article which quickly need to be addressed.

  • First, there is an air of misunderstanding permeating some parts of the article. The issue is not whether Al-Karaouine can be considered either a madrasa or a university at the time of its founding and until the 20th century. It was a madrasa. The real issue rather is whether madrasas can also be considered universities and whether this particular madrasa of Al-Karaouine can be considered a university. This is quite a different thing with a lot of implications.
  • Therefore, I reinstate the history section titles "madrasa" and "university", which supported by numerous citations each, do not predetermine the status discussion.
  • Remove any talk of a "state" university as original research. The cited authors (Lulat, Park, Belhachmi) don't even use the term, they rather all speak of the transformation from "madrasa" to a "university".
  • "Before World War II al-Karaouine's status was disputed with most sources considering it to be a madrasah or mosque school but with some sources considering it to be a university." I don't know where this suddenly comes from, this too is original research and quite probably a misunderstanding. There is no marked break in the way scholarship has been discussing to Al-Karaouine before and after WW II. Rather, the question is whether AK itself can be considered a university before around WW II. I phrased the intro to the statussection accordingls: "Al-Karaouine's institutional status during the medieval period is subject to some dispute with most sources considering it to be a madrasah or mosque school but with some sources considering it to be a university." Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:43, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Additionally, I propose to remove any tagged sources and sentences within the next couple of days, whatever point of view they support. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:43, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
    • Gun you do realise that your set of editing you did today is also heavy handed editing without prior discussion.
    • You removed all sorts of stuff like p tags from inside references which merely made the page easier to edit which is actually just irritating - having normal paragraph breaks in the middle of references just makes it harder to work out where the end of the reference is and makes no difference to the article's rendering. You also made edits with very large diffs which makes it really rather difficult to understand what was actually changed.
    • I think also that you added more detail to the status section, I think based on what N-HH has said that there is probably enough already, and that adding more that isn't directly relevant to this institution isn't a good thing.
    • With regards to State university, that certainly is required as that is what it became and describing it otherwise strongly implies that it wasn't a University beforehand. The only way it wouldn't be appropriate is if you have sources claiming it became a private university.
    • With regards to the dispute tag I think it needs to stay until someone else has a chance to take a look at the references. I think there is a serious credibility issue from the "pro-Madrasa" camp with regards to not bringing up the blatant religious nature of European Universities until the 19th century, you can probably argue that it isn't directly relevant to this page, but it is relevant to List of oldest universities in continuous operation. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:23, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
      • There are other wording changes I also didn't understand, e.g. why was 859 mentioned as the starting date in two successive sentences in the lead, and why was the first paragraph of the status section changed to only talk about its status in the medieval period, rather than up to WW2 as you yourself mention here on the talk page. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:35, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
The "before WW II" thing is still OR. Until sources are provided, we can't keep this. The "state university" claim is a misrepresentation of the cited sources (Lulat, Park, Belhachmi). None of these make any mention of a state university, their emphasis is instead on the transformation from madrasa to university (see below). What is clear and what we can all agree to is that Al-Karaouine was founded in 859 as a mosque by Fatima al-Fihri. Therefore, we need to say this explicitly in the lead and the infobox. Our issue only relates to the question whether the adjacent center of higher learning can be called a madrasa or a university or both. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:36, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Are you not misreading the "before WW2" point? It's not saying experts thought a certain way prior to c.1945, but that experts (supposedly) viewed the institution as being of a certain sort up until then. Also, more generally, because of this dispute the page has been left with disfiguring and OTT footnoting. Is there any way to cut that down, especially in the lead? I'd also stress again my view that the decription of oldest university is quite common and needs some recognition - albeit not necessarily endorsement - and also that the statement "became a university in 19xx" should not be included as a statement of unqualified fact. I'll add some detail on that point below, in response to the quotes being cited. N-HH talk/edits 15:28, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
These sources state that AK was transformed in 1963 to a university, not a "state" university

al-qarawiyin is the oldest university in Morocco. It was founded as a mosque in Fès in the middle of the ninth century. It has been a destination for students and scholars of Islamic sciences and Arabic studies throughout the history of Morocco. There were also other religious schools like the madras of ibn yusuf and other schools in the sus. This system of basic education called al-ta'lim al-aSil was funded by the sultans of Morocco and many famous traditional families. After independence, al-qarawiyin maintained its reputation, but it seemed important to transform it into a university that would prepare graduates for a modern country while maintaining an emphasis on Islamic studies. Hence, al-qarawiyin university was founded in February 1963 and, while the dean's residence was kept in Fès, the new university initially had four colleges located in major regions of the country known for their religious influences and madrasas. These colleges were kuliyat al-shari's in Fès, kuliyat uSul al-din in Tétouan, kuliyat al-lugha al-'arabiya in Marrakech (all founded in 1963), and kuliyat al-shari'a in Ait Melloul near Agadir, which was founded in 1979. (Park, Thomas K.; Boum, Aomar: Historical Dictionary of Morocco, 2nd ed., Scarecrow Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-8108-5341-6, p. 348)

The Adjustments of Original Institutions of the Higher Learning: the Madrasah. Significantly, the institutional adjustments of the madrasahs affected both the structure and the content of these institutions. In terms of structure, the adjustments were twofold: the reorganization of the available original madaris, and the creation of new institutions. This resulted in two different types of Islamic teaching institutions in al-Maghrib. The first type was derived from the fusion of old madaris with new universities. For example, Morocco transformed Al-Qarawiyin (859 A.D.) into a university under the supervision of the ministry of education in 1963. (Belhachmi, Zakia: "Gender, Education, and Feminist Knowledge in al-Maghrib (North Africa) – 1950–70", Journal of Middle Eastern and North African Intellectual and Cultural Studies, Vol. 2–3, 2003, pp. 55–82 (65)

Lulat is too long to be quoted, but you can look up on Google Books that he says effectively the same. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 15:19, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
These quotes do not read quite as definitively to me. At the risk of splitting hairs, the first says it was transformed into "a university that would prepare graduates for a modern country" and that there was a "new university". That doesn't mean it wasn't a university before, it just means it was modernised or reformed. The second says it was transformed "into a university under the supervision of the ministry of education in 1963" - again this is open to the same interpretation, that we are talking about changes in structure and control as much as of classification. The one book I can dig off my shelves that covers this area, Albert Hourani's History of the Arab Peoples, talks about this being a general trend in the post-war Arab world, of modernising states incorporating traditional Islamic institutions, including al-Karaouine, into the state education system. Having said that, he does avoid the term university prior to that when talking about al-Karaouine, simply referring to "the mosque" and its "attached madrassas". We need some recognition of the fuzziness of such classifications and the common description that is found of it as the world's "oldest university", without going into too much semantic detail and also without the apparently contradictory opening sentences that we have now - "The mosque of Al-Karaouine was founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 with an associated mosque school, a madrasa, which has also been referred to as a university. Al-Karaouine became a university in 1963." N-HH talk/edits 15:44, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Gun, can you please stop making ridiculously large undiffable changes such as this it is basically impossible to do anything but a straight revert if you disagree with any of the changes made. And if you don't just do a straight revert and challenge the points only on talk then you seem to just ignore the discussion. These behavioural issues make coming to a sensible solution much more difficult than it needs to be.
I also really don't understand why on earth all the content that was imperfectly sourced was removed. Why on earth it could not be given due time is beyond me. We aren't taking this article to FA anytime soon - and even then some effort should be made to source the points rather than removing them. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 16:53, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
@N-HH I would have thought we could avoid contradictions by using terms such as "state university" which meet NPOV and stop us POV pushing. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 16:55, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
@N-HH the quotes and your source do back up some fuzziness in definition for before the reforms, but it seems more accurate to say that experts view al-Karaouine ambiguously before 1963 rather than them viewing it explicitly as not a University.
That fits much better with the fact that at least some European Universities were religious schools until the 19th century. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:01, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
I broadly agree. As I think I may have said previously, I don't see why we can't end the lead with something along the lines of -
  • "The University of al-Karaouine or al-Qarawiyyin (Arabic: جامعة القرويين‎) is a university located in Fes, Morocco. The al-Karaouine mosque was founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859, and its associated madrasas became among the most noted centres of learning in the Islamic world. It is often described as the oldest university in the world, although for some authorities the term is historically inappropriate when applied to anything other than a specific form of institution usually found originally only in Europe. It was brought into Morocco's modern state university system in 19xx".
It could be expanded further, and would need fact-checking against the broad sweep of references, but to me that seems to cover the issues - including the "university or not?" succinctly, neutrally and without self-contradiction. N-HH talk/edits 17:13, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
I think that sounds sensible, and we can then remove the references from the lead, which as per WP:LEAD should only be included if the points are contentious. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:22, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
I see Gun Powder Ma is still editing the page without bothering to respond to any of the points raised here, and that quite apart from the substantive debate, we still have a lead littered with footnote tags and oddly contradictory phrasing, eg: "an associated mosque school or madrasa,[4][3][5][6][7][8] which has also been referred to as a university ... Al-Karaouine became a university in 1963". N-HH talk/edits 09:23, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
I have announced these changes already two weeks ago here en detail. These three sources which date the transformation of the madrasa to the university to 1963 have to be cited properly—and none speak of a "state" university. I have to agree that your interpretation above largely amounts to subjective reading. If the phrases "transform it into a university" or "al-qarawiyin university was founded in February 1963" are somehow ambiguous to you, then we have reached an impasse. We cite the terminology of all reliable sources, regardless of their view, faithfully. If they use "state university" we write state university, if they use "university" we write university. So it is done in my version.
There is no point in trying to make all sources fit one narrative as you seem to be advocating, because this way out has already been rendered virtually impossible by the careless terminology of those cited sources which speak of a "university" in connection with the madrasa, but in reality only mean this term simply as a general synonym for institution of higher education, not in the strict encyclopedic sense of university. So we have to go all the way and cite all sources faithfully according to WP:Reliable. This creates contradictions which, I agree, should be minimized as far as possible, but they cannot be eradicated completely unless we want to misrepresent sources and start all over the discussion again. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 15:59, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
Your first link refers to a post on another user's talk page, not to this thread. I am not offering a "subjective" interpretation, I am suggesting that the issue is not as clear-cut as your interpretation suggests; and did so with a clear explanation that you have not responded to until now, while still basing your own interpretation on selective quotation (see your quote "transform into a university", which not so subtly misses out the qualification that follows).
I also proposed a wording for the lead, which another editor gave broad backing to, which in my view incorporates all notable and sourced viewpoints while avoiding the problems of contradiction, and does so succinctly without entering into an exhaustive footnoted debate in the lead. It is possible to do such things without creating contradictions or misrepresenting sources. You meanwhile continued editing the page, including the lead, without even commenting on that and while pushing your interpretation onto the lead. Finally, as a point of general principle, the idea that there is only one, definitive and rigid, "encyclopedic" meaning of the word university is obviously not true, as plenty of people here have pointed out - and as noted, we can work around that anyway. N-HH talk/edits 16:30, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
Don't even bother to reply here, N-HH. Your attitude is clear enough. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:55, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
That's my talk page. You arrived to pompously berate me about nothing and I responded as I saw fit. Given that you failed to discuss things here previously anyway, I don't see what actual difference your now justifying that refusal by suddenly claiming the moral high ground over a swear word makes. N-HH talk/edits 08:09, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Firstly still making undiffable edits and refusing to use edit summaries is becoming a behavioural issue that will need to be escalated if it doesn't stop. Gun, I really don't understand why you find it so hard to follow the basic standards of behaviour required to edit in a collaborative environment.

Secondly, "announcing" changes on someone's talk page doesn't really count as discussing them collaboratively, rather it means you discussed it with me.

Furthermore I told you to go to the NPOV noticeboard to raise the State University vs University issue if you wanted to discuss the issue, which you a) failed to do, b) you removed the disputed tag from the article without a result (as I suggested waiting until later), c) you made yet another diff which contained a large number of other unknown, unknowable and undiscussed changes to the article. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 15:53, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

Furthermore Gun, while N-HH made a personal attack on his talk page "Don't even bother to reply here, N-HH. Your attitude is clear enough" is also a personal attack and one that is also unacceptable as per WP:CIVIL. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 16:22, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

HTML changes[edit]

Gun, please can you stop reverting my HTML changes, yes I accept that you might not fully understand them, but they make no content changes at all, and they make editing the article easier. Having quotes in references is great, but using normal line breaks just makes it extremely difficult to work out where you are. <p></p> tags do exactly the same thing in terms of rendering on the page, they merely make it easier to work out where you are. Adding extra line breaks after references makes no difference to the page display but it also makes it easier to see edit the article as the text after the end of the reference starts on a new line. I don't understand why you want to make the page harder to edit for future editors. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:25, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

I adopted your HTML changes of the Rüegg quote as I said so on your talk page. As for the others changes, it is not clear to me what you have done and why you have done it. The problem is your line breaks have created massive distortions in the text which make it virtually impossible to compare versions. That is why I have not adopted them. I suggest you refrain from insisting on their use. It has created much too much fuss for a bit, if any, cosmetical gain. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 16:05, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
Gun, you can check my edits before and after the line break changes were made if you wish to check the diffs.
Alternatively if you really wish to remove them to make diffing with previous versions easier, though I'm not sure which edits you want to diff but are having trouble with, perhaps you could remove them one-by-one in individual edits without making any other changes to the article in the same edit. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 15:59, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

WP:BOMBARD regarding "university"[edit]

This is futile. The question isn't going to be decided by citing Rough Guide, nor apologist literature. There is a certain debate as to whether Christian medieval universities were partly inspired by Islamic madrasas. The proper article to discuss this is, unsurprisingly, medieval university. This 9th-century madrasa was just that, a madrasa, and it's futile to cloud the issue by claiming it (as it were, in particular) deserves to be called a "university".

Madrasas in the 9th century did have certain aspects we today associate with universities rather than with (current-day) madrasas. The reason for this is the decline of Ilm al-Kalam (the pursuit of rational discourse) in the Muslim world after the 10th century. Yes, in the 9th century, there was promise of a development of "academia" in the Muslim world, but it didn't really go anywhere, which is why today we associate rational discourse with the term "university" rather than with the term "madrasa". Of course, the very urbild of academia is Platonic Academy, so if 9th-century "madrasas" can be dubbed "university", so can the Academy. In that case, the question of "world's oldest" would recede by at least a millennium. But these are semantic games. (Latin) Universitas is the word for Christian centers of learning, (Arabic) Madrasa for Muslim centers of learning. We don't see people wiki-bombarding the Bologna University article claiming that it would be semantically possible to call it a "madrasa" too. --dab (𒁳) 08:29, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

my take[edit]

This encyclopedia article might be instructive and worth a read. Jami'at and kollayat are not the same as a Madrassa. Madrassas did not exist at the time Al-Karaouine was established. Eurocentric scholarship has historically been a prominent feature of western academia, especially on the topic of Islamic contributions to civilization. The arguments against listing this as a university are categorically Eurocentric and in some part racist. Gastroking (talk) 04:06, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

One part of Wikipedia should not be contradicting another on matters of substantial fact. Either the list of oldest universities should be changed to reflect the nomenclature as "oldest," or this article should be changed to reflect the fact that it is not the oldest. I just tried and was reverted. Note that is isn't even the oldest madrassah. List of the oldest madrasahs in continuous operation in the Muslim world. If editors are happy with creative fiction, they may be better off editing .com media sites and not an encyclopedia. This is not the place for absurd claims with no basis in fact. Student7 (talk) 15:28, 13 June 2015 (UTC)
There are sources cited and all you cite is links to other articles plus your original thoughts unsupported by WP:RS. Hence they are reverted. Wikipedia is not the place to publish original research. Khestwol (talk) 17:51, 13 June 2015 (UTC)


I removed the second part of the lead photo caption - "note the similarity of the architecture to the Alhambra (الحمراء)" - as I couldn't see any source or justification for it. They are both examples of Muslim architecture, but I can't see a major connection, and none seems to be mentioned in the article. Also the Alhambra consists of dozens of buildings built over seven centuries - which bit is it meant to resemble? TSP (talk) 11:23, 10 March 2017 (UTC)


Apparently, the library at this university is the oldest existing library in the world, and it recently underwent major renovation. There should probably be at least a section in this article about the library, if not an independent article on it. Here are a couple articles detailing the work and the collection:

That said, our article on Saint Catherine's Monastery indicates that it contains the world's oldest continually operating library. ~ ONUnicorn(Talk|Contribs)problem solving 20:19, 30 March 2017 (UTC)